It all started last Sunday morning in me caravan.  We’d had a great birthday weekend, lovely food, a few beers and a couple of cocktails followed by two glorious days on my favourite beach in the world.  But when I woke, I noticed I had a sore throat, something I’ve been susceptible to since I was a kid.  I’ll never forget long summer days off school watching Wimbledon and Crown Court with me dad and a sore throat.

By Sunday night I was in real pain every time I swallowed so I had an early night and prayed that it would go knowing that I had the busiest week of the year ahead of me.

I was up most of the night and went into A & E at 7am.  I waited a couple of hours, saw Riad the Doctor and was admitted by 10am with the pain growing by the minute.  There was growth in my throat, Quinsy or an abscess so that when I swallowed it felt like a barbed wire tennis ball was fighting to get down.  Also it was affecting my breathing and making me feel a bit poisoned.

The specialist tried to burst it with what only can be described as a syringe on the end of a darning needle.  Stab stab stab but to no avail.  They were hoping the infection could be drained but there was nothing there just a weeping gum and a weeping man.

I had to sleep in what felt like a lunatic asylum – some old guy from Hale had fallen and smashed his octogenarian face in – literally.  The old fellow was in a bad way, lay on his bed mumbling conversations to himself, taking on different characters and voices and rollicking himself for falling.  But he was double incontinent and the room stunk.  The guy across from me had a stroke in 1969 and reminisced like it was his Woodstock, repeatedly.  Then, went on to tell me of every holiday he had ever been on like an autistic kid listing his toys in his play box.

I was moved wards and doctors tried to drain the poison with darning needle syringes but nothing was coming and my throat was killing.  I really can’t find words to explain how it feels when I swallow.  Then she tried the telescope up the nose and down the throat – that was a laugh.

By Thursday my mental health was wrecked but the pain had subsided greatly so they let me go home with a load of anti biotics and painkillers.

I was only home a few hours when the pain started again.  I tried to ride it with painkillers but the infection was beginning to spread up my neck, into my ear, face and head.  It felt like something was pressing on my brain and the pain was unbelievable.

An ambulance arrived at 2.30am and I was rushed into hospital in agony.  The doctor questioned me for an hour before looking in my mouth.  His fear was septicemia and kept stressing the fact that he had to get the septic poison out.

I was poisoned – my whole body felt like shit – everything annoyed me, the sounds of pots being washed in the sink brought real pain to my ear and brain and I was the worst snappy bastard I have ever been.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t take much more of this pain and just wanted morphine or anything that would knock me out. – That is when the real horror story began.

The doctor, Pedro, said that he had to get the poison out and when it was released, I would feel better – “You’ll be dancing round the room with relief” he said but somehow, I didn’t believe him.

Looking into my mouth and at my palate Pedro said – a

A -ha – eureka – They’ve been looking in the wrong place”

“what do you mean?”  I said

“They have been using a syringe on the throat but the poison has spread up you throat across your face and into your head” He maintained that he could see the infection in the roof of my mouth.


In most circumstances, I’d have vomited  at the idea but the way I was feeling I would do anything to get rid of this pain.

He took a scalpel and a wooden spatula and began to cut into the roof of my mouth. He had to create “a door”.  When he created the door he pressed the roof of my mouth with the spatula, like bursting a spot.  The blood and puss flushed out like a running tap.  The more he pressed the more it flushed.  I had to keep spitting the blood and puss into the sink.  The smell was atrocious and made me gag.  The taste of pussy poison blood in my mouth was the most disgusting thing I have ever experienced.

After the first cut, Pedro was jubilant but kept saying – “There’s more puss mike, we are going to have to cut it again” So he cut again.  The pain was incredible but I didn’t care because as he cut and pressed with the spatula, I could feel the poison leaving my body.  Again I had to spit the bloody globules of puss into the sink and the smell was incredible – I remember looking up and seeing Amanda on the other side of the room gagging with the pungent poisoned puss smell.

‘There’s still more puss mike.  I am going to have to cut it again.  So he cut it again and again and again.

Five wounds later, my palate was a weeping wound of blood and puss that started to trickle and coagulate in my throat.  The pain was incredible but I could feel the poison leaving my body, which compensated massively.

I’d been through a horror show – the sink, floor and wall was blood splattered and I was exhausted emotionally mentally and physically but it felt like the majority of the poison was gone.

We caught a taxi home at 7.30 – Amanda was exhausted – she loves her sleep and hadn’t had a wink for 48 hours – she went straight to bed while I continued to drink water and wash out my throat with warm saltwater.

I was really emotional – crying all the time – I don’t really know what I was crying about – me kids, me wife, me life.

Then Leila walked in, in her school uniform and oblivious to everything.  As soon as she saw me she went white, quite a feat for someone of mixed heritage, Jamaican/Wythenshawe.  She walked towards me and wrapped her arms around me and told me everything was going to be all right.  I cried into her shoulder and she patted me back – every pat healed.  I think it was one of the best hugs I’ve ever had.

I’ve spent the last 4 or 5 days lay on the couch with a quilt.  Watching shite tv, falling asleep, walking up, eating good fruit and veg, drinking loads of water and juice and taking my tablets as prescribed.  I do feel a bit better but I have never been ill like this before and I have never been so weak.

I’m a performer – I stand in front of large groups of people to read and talk about Poetry.  I don’t know why people like it so much to be honest.  All I’m doing is reading my scribbled thoughts and talking about them.   I call it the “Frank Carson effect – i.e..  It’s not necessarily what I say but “The way I tell em” I’m incredibly lucky, but I believe you earn your luck.  I know loads of poets, ten times better than me at the craft, who struggle to get work or paid for what they do.  I’ve worked on building sites, fencing teams, retail, Libraries and with gangs laying the “Black Stuff” (and if you don’t know what the Black Stuff is, check out Alan Bleasedale, one of the greatest play writes of the last millennium, up there with Ibsen, Shaw and Shakespeare.) But now, I know I have the greatest job in the world and ultimately, all I do is talk.

So when my throat is infected and my vocal chords are battered it adds to the terror of it all.  Will i be able to read aloud again?will i be able to perform? what’s my voice going to be like when it returns?  Are there any jobs going at tesco.  It all adds to the fear.

As a self employed artist this infection has so far cost me £2k worth of work.  I’ve let people down and done my reputation no good at all and i’m really sorry for letting people down but i can not add this to my worries because my health must take priority.

Last night was a nightmare – I tried to eat something with Amanda and Leila but the pain was so intense.  After each swallowed mouthful of food, i had to leave the room to grimace and swallow.  Thats the thing about being ill, it isn’t just sore, it also casts a shadow across the house.  The people who love you feel the pain as well and i didn’t want my loved ones to feel 1% of what i was feeling.

After tea, i sat and watched the england game in a trance – my throat was killing and i could not eat a thing but something inside me said – make it through tonight and you will feel better.

I went to bed at 10.  Amanda, was innocently lay in bed with her laptop and i just snapped – “turn out the light, i need to sleep”

it must have taken her two or three seconds to understand what i said but that wasn’t quick enough for me so i snapped again “turn out the light, i need to sleep” – i was a horrible bastard and how she has kept patience with me over the last 9 or 10 days i do not know.

I slept and sweated like a pig and like the last 10 days i woke and prepared to swallow.

I swallowed…………………………………………..and the pain had gone.  I swallowed again………………………no pain.

Hail mary full of grace

I went downstairs and drank a pint of water.  I ate some crunchy breakfast cereal and no pain at all.  Don’t get me wrong, my throat, neck and mouth is sore but i can SWALLOW.  I feel weak but i can SWALLOW.

I woke Leils for school and made us both a boiled egg with soldiers and my Auntie Maureen soft knocked the front door with a bag of “get well soon food ” a hug and the Guardian.

I woke Amanda – “it’s gone, babe”

“What do you mean?”

The infection – its gone.  I can swallow.

Its 9.00am and grey outside.  The dog’s barking at the post man and kids late for school are dawdling down the street chatting football, Rooney and England’s chances of winning the world cup.  I feel like I have won it before it even starts.


7 thoughts on “SWALLOW 2

  1. Good Jaysus, Mike, that sounds like a tale of Victorian medicine – all that’s missing is Burke and Hare.
    And no knowing how you got the infection? I hope you heal fast now the worst is over – you’ll have to! I’m sure you’ve got a book launch to do soon!
    Lots of liquids, and fruit, I’d say, and peace and quiet – films and football on the telly and reading in the shade, books and magazines. That’s my tip anyway. I hope you’re back in action before the World Cup.

  2. Bloody hell. I specialise in boils myself – the same thing on a smaller scale – and they are indeed revolting, and they relocate your whole consciousness into one sore place – so I can just get the faintest glimpse of what you’ve been through. Don’t worry too much about being a snappy bugger – the thing about people who love you is that they, er, love you and will forgive you most things if you’re properly ill. Which you clearly are!

    It sounds a little bit as if you, like me, are in the words of a helpful doctor ‘riddled with staphylococcus’. All I can say is that I have been taking multi-vitamins for a while in the hope of improving my resistance to infection – and haven’t had any serious throat or staphy infections since. Worth trying? Take care – Jo

  3. my 1st response is to gary mcmahon,here’s burke..Mike u don’t know me,i’m an old school friend of amanda’s.Was compelled to read this story when i saw amanda’s entry on facebook.Gotta say apart from your pain,wot a great read.I’m shocked i’m even replyin to this,cos things don’t usually interest me enough to actually read them to the end.You defo have a gift mike.Hope all goes well pal & say hi to amanda…

  4. Keep on keeping on Mike. The liberating feeling of releasing poison out of your mouth, I’m sure there is a deep metaphor in there for someone in your kind of work. Hope to see you at the book fair.

  5. Mike,
    What you have been through sounds completely horrendous. Hope you are feeling better now in time for your book launch. Glad to hear you got hugs etc – they are just what you need when you are suffering.
    Let me know how I can get a copy of the book.
    Love & Best Wishes

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